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Biol Psychol. 2003 Oct;64(1-2):77-90.

Anxiety and error-related brain activity.

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Department of Psychology, University of Delaware, Newark, DE 19716, USA.


Error-related negativity (ERN/Ne) is a component of the event-related brain potential (ERP) associated with monitoring action and detecting errors. It is a sharp negative deflection that generally occurs from 50 to 150 ms following response execution and has been associated with anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) activity. An enhanced ERN has been observed in patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)--reflecting abnormal ACC activity hypothesized as part of the pathophysiology of OCD. We recently reported that the ERN is also enhanced in a group of college students with OC characteristics. The present study extended these findings by measuring the ERN in college undergraduates who scored high on either the Penn State Worry Questionnaire (PSWQ) or a combined version of the Snake (SNAQ) and Spider (SPQ) Questionnaires. Results indicate that, like OC subjects, subjects who score high on a measure of general anxiety and worry have enhanced error-related brain activity relative to both phobic and non-anxious control subjects. The enhanced ERN was found to generalize beyond OCD within the anxiety spectrum disorders but also shows some specificity within these disorders.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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